Friday, February 09, 2007

The return of House Points

From today's Liberal Democrat News. It owes a lot to an earlier posting on this blog - and thanks to Iain Dale too.

Identity crisis
While House Points was taking a break, the prime minister was twice interviewed by police, Lembit Öpik took up with a Cheeky Girl and the Conservatives came out against identity cards. We shall return to Tony Blair’s adventures – though perhaps not Lembit’s – another day, so let’s look at the Tories.

On Monday David Davis wrote to the cabinet secretary saying a Conservative government would scrap the ID card project. He asked what had been done to protect public funds against the costs of early cancellation. He also wrote to likely major contractors warning them of the Tories’ intentions.

At last: a policy from the Tories. And it’s one Liberal Democrats should welcome unreservedly, even if it only catches up with a position we have held for years.

But the interesting question is how it will play with Conservative members. They may not be as keen on watering down Tory authoritarianism as we are.

In the early 1990s I was walking the South-West coast and spent a night in Kingsand -- a village across the Tamar from Plymouth. It was one of those magical evenings when you make friends with the locals and people keep buying you drinks.

Towards closing time, the local Conservatives came in from a meeting and I got talking to them too. They had been discussing identity cards and asked what I thought. I said (a little pretentiously) that I didn't see why, as a freeborn Englishman, I should have to carry a card to show my right to be in my own country.

Yes, they said, there was someone at the meeting who thought that, but the rest of us were firmly in favour of cards. It turned out this was chiefly because of their fears about illegal immigration.

Political activists will put up with anything from their leaders if they think they are being marched to victory. Labour members allowed Blair to discard their traditional policies. Liberals agreed to stand down in half the seats in the country to support David Steel’s "Alliance" project.

But they soon change if success does not arrive. There will be plenty of Tories eager to round on David Cameron if he does not improve his party’s performance markedly at the next election.

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